from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness: an earnest gesture of goodwill.
  • adj. Of an important or weighty nature; grave. See Synonyms at serious.
  • idiom in earnest With a purposeful or sincere intent: settled down to study in earnest for the examination.
  • idiom in earnest Serious; determined: "Both sides are deeply in earnest, with passions that approximate those of civil war” ( Conor Cruise O'Brien).
  • n. Money paid in advance as part payment to bind a contract or bargain.
  • n. A token of something to come; a promise or an assurance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Serious in speech or action; eager; urgent; importunate; pressing; instant.
  • adj. Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain or do; zealous with sincerity; with hearty endeavour; heartfelt; fervent; hearty; — used in a good sense; as, earnest prayers.
  • adj. Intent; fixed closely; as, earnest attention.
  • adj. Possessing or characterised by seriousness; strongly bent; intent.
  • adj. Strenuous; diligent.
  • adj. Serious; weighty; of a serious, weighty, or important nature; not trifling or feigned; important.
  • n. Gravity; serious purpose; earnestness.
  • n. Seriousness; reality; actuality (as opposed to jesting or feigned appearance); fixed determination; eagerness; intentness.
  • v. To be serious with; use in earnest.
  • n. A sum of money paid in advance as a deposit; hence, a pledge, a guarantee, an indication of something to come.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain or do; zealous with sincerity; with hearty endeavor; heartfelt; fervent; hearty; -- used in a good sense.
  • adj. Intent; fixed closely.
  • adj. Serious; important.
  • n. Seriousness; reality; fixed determination; eagerness; intentness.
  • n. Something given, or a part paid beforehand, as a pledge; pledge; handsel; a token of what is to come.
  • n. Something of value given by the buyer to the seller, by way of token or pledge, to bind the bargain and prove the sale.
  • transitive v. To use in earnest.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Serious in speech or action; eager; urgent; importunate; pressing; instant: as, earnest in prayer.
  • Possessing or characterized by seriousness in seeking, doing, etc.; strongly bent; intent: as, an earnest disposition.
  • Strenuous; diligent: as, earnest efforts.
  • Serious; weighty; of a serious, important, or weighty nature; not trifling or feigned.
  • To be serious with; use in earnest.
  • To serve as an earnest or a pledge of.
  • n. Gravity; serious purpose; earnestness.
  • n. Seriousness; reality; actuality, as opposed to jesting or feigned appearance.
  • n. A portion of something given or done in advance as a pledge; security in kind; specifically, in law, a part of the price of goods or service bargained for, which is paid at the time of the bargain to evidence the fact that the negotiation has ended in an actual contract.
  • n. Anything that gives pledge, promise, assurance, or indication of what is to follow; first-fruits.
  • n. Synonyms Earnest, Pledge. Earnest, like pledge, is security given for the doing of something definite in the future, and generally returned when the conditions of the contract have been fulfilled. In 2 Cor. i. 22 and v. 5 we read that the Spirit is given as the earnest of indefinite future favors from God; in Blackstone we find “a penny, or any portion of the goods delivered as earnest.” Whether literal or figurative, earnest is always a pledge in kind, a part paid or given in warrant that more of the same kiud, is forthcoming; as in “Macbeth,” i. 3, Macbeth is hailed thane of Cawdor “for an earnest of a greater honor.” See also “Cymbeline,” i. 6. Pledge is often used figuratively for that which seems promised or indicated by the actions of the present, earnest being preferred for that which is of the same nature with the thing promised, and pledge for that which is materially different.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. earnest
  • n. something of value given by one person to another to bind a contract
  • adj. characterized by a firm and humorless belief in the validity of your opinions
  • adj. not distracted by anything unrelated to the goal


Middle English ernest, from Old English eornoste; see er-1 in Indo-European roots.
Middle English ernest, variant of ernes, alteration of Old French erres, pl. of erre, pledge, from Latin arra, alteration of arrabō, from Greek arrabōn, earnest-money, of Canaanite origin; see ʿrb in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English ernest, eornest, from Old English eornest, eornost, eornust ("earnestness, zeal, seriousness, battle"), from Proto-Germanic *ernustuz (“earnest, strength, solidity, struggle, fight”), a derivative of Proto-Germanic *arniz (“efficient, capable, diligent, sure”), from Proto-Indo-European *er- (“to cause to move, arouse, increase”). Cognate with West Frisian earnst ("earnest, seriousness"), Dutch ernst ("seriousness, gravity, earnest"), German Ernst ("seriousness, earnestness, zeal, vigour"), Icelandic ern ("brisk, vigorous"), Gothic  (arniba, "secure, certain, sure"). (Wiktionary)
From Middle English eornest, from Old English eornoste ("earnest, zealous, serious"), from eornost ("earnest", the noun; see above). Cognate with North Frisian ernste ("earnest"), Middle Low German ernest, ernst ("serious, earnest"), German ernst ("serious, earnest"). (Wiktionary)
Of uncertain origin; apparently related to erres. Compare also arles. (Wiktionary)


  • Stands to reason, if any man's going to preach earnest, _earnest_, mind you, he'll require some notes or heads jotted down, clear and easy to be got at, before him. "

    Ringfield A Novel

  • She leaned across the table, her expression earnest and so beautiful he could only stare, marveling at what changes time had wrought in her.

    My Soul to Keep

  • "What they should be doing in earnest is forming opinions, not about me but about GM and what this company is doing that is ... hugely beneficial to the causes they so enthusiastically claim to support," he said in a posting titled, "Talk About a Crock."

    GM exec repeats, global warming 'total crock of sh**'

  • Before they got out of the cab Douglass turned to him, his expression earnest at last.

    The Scandal of the Season

  • And if you are in earnest, is there nothing you have to do besides praying?

    The Wide, Wide World

  • He sent me one this week which, in earnest, is as pretty a thing as I have seen, a China trunk, and the finest of the kind that e'er I saw.

    Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-54)

  • Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has issued what she calls an "earnest appeal" for the government and ethnic groups to begin immediate peace talks.

    Burma Democracy Leader Urges Talks to End Ethnic Conflicts

  • She undid his shirt and placed her hand on his bare chest, her expression earnest.

    One Night in Scotland

  • But— She lifted on her elbow, her expression earnest.

    One Night in Scotland

  • The clerk bent to his computer, his expression earnest.

    Rain Gods


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.